Artistic Director Dale Johnson chooses repertoire, performers, conductors, directors and designers, and leads all aspects of artistic planning.
Many of us remember the wondrous Brothers Grimm fairy tales being read to us as a child. As we grew up and read them ourselves, they continued to entertain, but we also realized the emotional depth of these stories. At first glimpse, Hansel and Gretel is an engaging story of two smart and energetic young children sent out into the woods alone as their punishment. Along the way they meet and battle an evil witch who wants to cook them in her oven and eat them! That is indeed quite a captivating story, but when you take a closer look at traditional fairy tales as child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim did, you discover that the dark themes might actually be about children overcoming their inner anxieties and fears such as separation from a parent. I believe that it was the underlying depth to the art of the Brothers Grimm tales that influenced future generations of storytellers and appealed to composer Engelbert Humperdinck.
Humperdinck was a well-respected German composer of the late 19th and early 20th century. Even though he composed other stage works, it was his opera Hansel and Gretel that made him famous. In creating this work, he applied Wagnerian compositional techniques to German folk tunes in a way that enhanced the storytelling with rich characterizations.
Choreographer and Director Doug Varone and his team found inspiration in both the seriousness of the Brothers Grimm story as well as the light, dance-like nature of some of Humperdinck’s pieces. In order to tell this popular tale from another angle, Varone decided to set the time period in the first half of the 20th century where the family was facing starvation and the father’s unemployment. Just as the typical gingerbread house serves as an emotional escape for the children after they are sent off into the woods, Varone and his team have created a marvelous carnival setting with images of trapeze artists and magicians.
This new production of Hansel and Gretel pairs the irresistibly beautiful and strange carnival world with the real world of poverty and danger. I hope you enjoy this delicious new production of Hansel and Gretel for adults and children who aren’t afraid of the dark.